Los Angeles Angels' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 21, 2015

Los Angeles Angels' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    If you’re thinking the Los Angeles Angels’ farm system has a much different look today than it did a year ago, it’s probably because seven of the team’s newly ranked top 10 prospects were not even part of the organization at the onset of the 2014 season.

    The Angels dealt second baseman Taylor Lindsey, the team’s top prospect last year, shortstop Jose Rondon and right-hander R.J. Alvarez to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline in exchange for closer Huston Street, who will become a free agent after the 2015 season. While the move cost the Angels three of their top prospects at the time, the club’s aggressiveness on the trade front this offseason has allowed it to at least partially replenish talent on the farm.

    Most notably, the Angels acquired 23-year-old left-hander Andrew Heaney, the No. 9 overall pick in 2012, from the Los Angeles Dodgers in December in exchange for Howie Kendrick, while the team added right-hander Nick Tropeano, catcher Carlos Perez and third baseman Kyle Kubitza in smaller trades. The Angels also made headlines in early January when they signed 20-year-old Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin with an $8 million bonus.

    The Angels added a trio of high-upside arms with their first three picks in last year’s draft, selecting left-hander Sean Newcomb, who could reach the majors quickly with improved control/command, with the No. 15 overall pick, prep right-hander Joe Gatto in the second round and Ole Miss righty Chris Ellis in the third.

    Unfortunately, the few promising homegrown players in the Angels system haven’t progressed as expected to this point, especially third baseman Kaleb Cowart, who turned in a second straight disappointing season at Double-A Arkansas. Second baseman Alex Yarbrough had a strong campaign playing alongside Cowart in the Southern League, but the 23-year-old switch-hitter profiles as more of a utility player than an everyday guy.

    Here are the Los Angeles Angels’ top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: Number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: Delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: Present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

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    Kaleb Cowart, 3B

    Kyle McGowin, RHP

    Nate Smith, LHP

    Taylor Featherston, INF

    *Notable Omission: Roberto Baldoquin, 2B/SS

    The Angels landed the 20-year-old Baldoquin in early January with an $8 million signing bonus, which at the time was a record for an international prospect under the bonus pool system. Even though he’s expected to open 2015 as Double-A Arkansas’ starting shortstop, I’ve decided not to include Baldoquin in any rankings until he plays meaningful games in the States.

10. Alex Yarbrough, 2B

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    Position: 2B

    DOB: 08/03/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: Fourth round, 2012 (Mississippi)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5035454045

    Scouting Report

    Alex Yarbrough's production at Double-A Arkansas last year mirrored the numbers he put up during his first full professional season in 2013, when he batted .313/.341/.459 with 53 extra-base hits and 80 RBI for High-A Inland Empire. This past season, he did it in a less hitter-friendly environment, however, as he batted .285/.321/.397 in 136 games for Double-A Arkansas and led the Texas League in both hits (155) and doubles (38) .

    A switch-hitter, the 23-year-old Yarbrough fared better from the left side of the plate (.750 OPS) but still held his own as a righty (.651 OPS), even hitting four of his five home runs off of left-handed pitching. He also put together a handful of notable hit streaks last season, including a pair of seven- and eight-gamers, as well as one 14-game hitting streak.

    Yarbrough doesn’t project as an impact everyday player at the highest level, but his well-rounded game and skills on both sides of the ball should at least help him carve out a role as a utility infielder.

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (below-average regular/utility player)—Low risk

9. Carlos Perez, C

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    Position: C

    DOB: 10/27/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 210 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2008 by Blue Jays (Venezuela)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4535306060

    Scouting Report

    Carlos Perez spent a majority of the last two years at Triple-A Oklahoma, where he batted a combined .264/.325/.366 with 30 doubles and eight home runs in 636 plate appearances. The 24-year-old was traded to the Angels in November along with right-hander Nick Tropeano as part of the deal for catcher Hank Conger.

    Perez’s game is highlighted by his strong defense behind the plate, as he’s an advanced receiver with efficient footwork, good catch-and-throw skills and an accurate, above-average arm. At the plate, the right-handed hitter has a flat, compact swing that produces consistent contact, while his bat-to-ball skills make him difficult to strike out. Perez should be good for upward of 20 doubles over a full season given his gap power, but he shouldn’t be expected to suddenly show improved home run power upon reaching the major leagues.

    Even if he doesn’t hit, Perez’s defense-first profile should get him to the major leagues at some point next season, where he’s likely to serve as a backup to Chris Iannetta.

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (back-up catcher)— Low risk

8. Nick Tropeano, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/27/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 200 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Fifth round, 2011 by Astros (Stony Brook)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    55455550

    Scouting Report

    Nick Tropeano spent most of the 2014 season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where the right-hander posted a 3.03 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and a 120-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 124.2 innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 24-year-old had his contract purchased by the Astros in early September and went on to make four starts in the final month of the regular season. Tropeano’s time in Houston was short-lived, however, as he was traded to the Angels in November along with catcher Carlos Perez as part of the deal for Hank Conger.

    A 6’4”, 200-pound right-hander, Tropeano lacks dominant stuff but boasts a pair of solid-average offerings in his low-90s fastball and changeup. He’s adept at mixing in his slider to keep opposing hitters off balance, though it doesn’t project as a swing-and-miss offering at the highest level. Tropeano’s two better-than-average pitches and good control give him the floor of a No. 5 starter in the major leagues, and he gives the Angels young, cost-controlled rotation depth moving forward.

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (No. 5 starter/swingman)—Low risk

7. Victor Alcantara, RHP

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 04/03/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    70454040

    Scouting Report

    After a rough stateside debut in 2013, Victor Alcantara emerged as one of the Angels’ better young arms last year during his full-season debut for Low-A Burlington. Appearing in 27 games overall, including 20 starts, the 21-year-old right-hander pitched to a 3.81 ERA with 117 strikeouts (8.4 K/9) against 60 walks (4.3 BB/9) and 98 hits in 125.1 innings.

    Alcantara possesses some of the best arm strength in the low minors, with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, as he showcased in last year’s SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. The only problem is that the right-hander has absolutely no clue where the pitch will end up, as his mechanics are messy and inconsistent and involve considerable effort.

    He also throws a tight 87-88 mph slider that generates some whiffs, but it has the potential to take a step back at higher levels without improved command of his fastball.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (late-inning reliever/setup man)—High risk

6. Kyle Kubitza, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 07/15/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: Third round, 2011 (Texas State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Late 2015

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4550506045

    Scouting Report

    Kyle Kubitza quietly had a great year at Double-A Mississippi, as the 24-year-old set new full-season career highs in batting average (.295), on-base percentage (.405), slugging (.470), extra-base hits (50) and stolen bases (21). In January, the Atlanta Braves traded Kubitza to the Angels.

    The left-handed-hitting Kubitza has a smooth, line-drive-oriented swing as well as a knack for barreling the ball and using the whole field. The Texas native employs a patient approach at the plate and draws his share of walks, though at times his selectivity seems to limit his power potential.

    Kubitza’s only standout attribute is his above-average arm, but he still offers value with average tools across the board and has room left to develop. His steady improvement over the last two seasons has him on track to reach the major leagues at some point during the 2015 season, especially as a member of the Angels.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (average big leaguer)—Low risk

5. Cam Bedrosian, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 10/02/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 205 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 (East Coweta HS, Georgia)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60504045

    Scouting Report

    No reliever was more dominant than Cam Bedrosian during the first two months of the minor league season. The right-hander registered a 1.13 ERA, saved eight games and struck out 45 batters in 24 innings (16.9 K/9) between High-A Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas, with opposing hitters combining for a .079/.167/.118 batting line against him during that time frame.

    The 23-year-old also made five separate trips to the major leagues between June and September but struggled to make an impact out of the Angels bullpen, posting a 6.52 ERA and 20-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19.1 innings over 17 appearances.

    A stocky and undersized right-hander at 6’0”, 205 pounds, Bedrosian attacks hitters with his 93-95 mph fastball, at times reaching back for more, while the pitch’s late life allows him to work effectively toward the top of the hitting zone. His slider is an average offering, thrown with good velocity in the mid-80s with late biting action, and he also works in a changeup against left-handed batters.

    He should compete during spring training for a spot in the team’s big league bullpen.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (setup man)—Low risk

4. Joe Gatto, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 06/14/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 204 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2014 (St. Joes Prep, New Jersey)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: Late 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    60554550

    Scouting Report

    After being selected in the second round of the 2014 draft, Joe Gatto pitched to a 5.33 ERA and allowed 36 hits in 27 innings between the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues.

    At 6’3”, 204 pounds, Gatto has the combination of size and athleticism you look for in a pitcher to get plane on the fastball and throw his off-speed stuff down in the zone. However, his limbs are so long that he tends to lose his release point and repeat his mechanics.

    Gatto's best present and future pitch is his fastball, thrown in the 91-94 mph range with good plane and late sinking action. The ball jumps out of his hand and gets on hitters quickly thanks to his extension toward the plate. Gatto can snap off a power curve in the mid-70s that has steep two-plane break, tight spin and excellent depth, but he struggles to maintain a consistent arm slot with the pitch, leading to erratic shape and minimal control.

    The strength of Gatto's fastball-curveball combination as well as his three-sport background in high school has prevented his changeup from receiving the attention it needs to develop. It's straight and firm out of his hand with some arm-speed deception, and will require thorough development in order to have utility against left-handed hitters.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter)—High risk

3. Chris Ellis, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/22/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 205 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Third round, 2014 (Mississippi)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: Late 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    60505550

    Scouting Report

    After a long college season at Ole Miss, Chris Ellis was limited to only nine appearances (two starts) in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where he posted a 6.89 ERA and struck out 16 batters in 16 innings.

    At 6’5”, 200 pounds, Ellis is a long, lanky right-hander who uses his height to work on a downhill plane toward the plate. His low-90s fastball has enough velocity and life to project as a solid-average offering or better, and it’s easy to envision him sitting at 92-94 mph in the next year or two after adding muscle.

    Arm action is fairly clean, though there is a stab in the back of his windup that contributes to the command problems; longer arm path makes it more difficult to find a consistent release point. 

    Ellis’ curveball will flash above-average potential in the low to mid-80s with a hard break, but he has a tendency to let it go too early out of his hand, leading to an erratic shape. His changeup is arguably his best swing-and-miss offering, thrown with deceptive arm speed and plenty of separation from his fastball, and he’s comfortable using it against any hitter in any count.

    Ellis’ biggest problem right now is that he doesn't stay on top of the ball as often as you’d like, as he frequently loses his release point and pushes the ball into the upper half of the zone, where hitters don't miss it. He’ll try to work out those issues in 2015 during what should be his full-season debut.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter/late-inning reliever)—High risk

2. Sean Newcomb, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 06/12/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 240 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Hartford)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    6550606055

    Scouting Report

    Sean Newcomb, the No. 15 overall pick in last year’s draft, logged only 14.2 innings last summer after holding out until the signing deadline. However, he still managed to conclude his pro debut with a strong showing at Low-A Burlington, highlighted by a 10-strikeout, two-hit performance over four shutout innings in his final start of the regular season.

    The 6’5”, 240-pound left-hander’s combination of size, strength and a low-effort delivery should make him a durable workhorse as a professional. Working from a three-quarters arm slot, Newcomb’s fastball sits comfortably in the 92-95 mph range, topping out at 97, and he’s shown the ability to maintain it deep into games. His arm action and extension toward the plate give the pitch late life, with natural arm-side run as well as some sinking action when located down in the zone.

    Newcomb’s slider is average at present but flashes above-average potential, registering in the low to mid-80s with good tilt and depth. It’s a swing-and-miss offering that dives out of the zone, and he already shows feel for burying it on the back foot of right-handed hitters. He also knows how to add/subtract with his curveball, as he throws it in a wide velocity range (76-81 mph) with a big, 11-to-5 shape and modest downer action. The pitch lacks consistency at the present but projects as average.

    Newcomb’s changeup comes in at 82-85 mph with above-average fading action to his arm side, and he sells the pitch with fastball-like arm action and a smooth delivery. The left-hander’s ability as a strike-thrower leaves something to be desired, but his feel for the zone should continue to improve as he learns to repeat his delivery with more consistency.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)—High risk

1. Andrew Heaney, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 06/05/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2012 by Marlins (Oklahoma State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 1 (Marlins)

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60605560

    Scouting Report

    Andrew Heaney opened 2014 with a dominant showing between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, which resulted in a promotion to the major leagues in early June. However, the 23-year-old left-handed pitcher couldn’t replicate his minor league success against the game’s top hitters, going 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA and five home runs allowed in 20.2 innings over four starts.

    Heaney continued to scuffle after returning to Triple-A, registering a 4.30 ERA and yielding eight more home runs over his final 60.2 innings (11 starts), but he still returned to the major leagues in September and looked sharp, notching four strikeouts and allowing just two hits over 4.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

    During the offseason, Heaney was dealt to the Dodgers in December as part of the Dee Gordon trade, only to be traded to the Angels in return for Howie Kendrick.

    At 6’2”, Heaney’s frame is both wiry and athletic with room to add strength. As for his stuff, the left-hander features an above-average fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 95 with late life. His command of the pitch was challenged last season in the major leagues, but there isn’t any reason to believe it won’t improve with experience.

    His go-to secondary pitch is an above-average slider that he can throw for a strike early in the count, and then use it to put away hitters out of the zone when ahead. The left-hander made significant progress developing his changeup last season, partially in response to facing more advanced right-handed hitters, and it should at least be a solid-to-average offering at maturity.

    Heaney should have the opportunity to crack the Angels’ Opening Day rotation, though that might depend on Garrett Richards’ recovery.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)—Low risk

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